It is obvious that lifestyle has a huge impact on health: we know if have a bad diet, never exercise and generally embrace every indulgence that there is a price to pay. Yet when it comes to the impact this has on our hormones many women seriously underestimate just how much difference it can make.
Hormones are responsible for more than you think
The endocrine system, which includes glands such as the pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, adrenal cortex and medulla, and ovaries, produce hormones in women. As well as our sexual and reproductive health they have other critical body functions including how effectively we utilise minerals, regulate our fluid balance and most importantly how we respond to stress.
When our hormones are in balance, we get better sleep, enough energy for our needs, a healthy libido and a strong immune and digestive system. But it really does not take much to disrupt that balance.
What can go wrong?
There are a number of things that can upset you and will show up as symptoms, or hormone disorders. However such imbalance does not suddenly appear, we have usually been laying the foundations for it for some years previously, often from puberty onwards or even before birth.
The most common disorders linked to hormone disruption are adrenal fatigue, low thyroid, fertility, menstruation and menopausal symptoms and PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The media often portray women’s “hormone problems” as solely being linked to the menopause and while it is true that the severity of hormonal problems may increase with age, but it is not getting older that lies at the root of many hormonal issues for women.
The key factor is often the cumulative physiological effects of stress that cause disruption of the natural rhythms and balancing mechanisms of women’s hormones. Over time this can compromise both our general as well as hormonal health. Women who find their hormonal symptoms fluctuate wildly from very slight to extreme don’t often consider that the factor that is making the difference is their stress levels. This is particularly true of hot flushes that are highly responsive to stress and if you have a irregular pattern off such symptoms it is worth keeping a ‘stress journal’ to see if you can track a particular item that has brought on a flush.
The primary stress hormone is cortisol and the more stress you’re under, the more it unbalances your cortisol levels. Once it is compromised other functions also start to break down as cortisol is a primary hormone that assists your body to convert food into energy, normalize blood sugar, respond to stress and maintain your immune system’s inflammatory response. The female hormones oestrogen and progesterone are also unbalanced when you are under stress.
Do you know how stressed you are? Most of us don’t as we take it for granted that whatever level of stress we are able to function under is ‘normal’ as we gradually assume that is how we are meant to function. There are of course many stresses we encounter every day from minor to major and these are just some of them:
* Emotional stress
* Dietary stress
* Pain and/or inflammatory stress
* Bodily stress from a poor diet of junk/fast food
* Exposure to chemicals and toxins in your environment
Lifestyle stress can include work, finances, relationships or just anything that you get anxious or worried about.
What can you do?
The first step is often actually acknowledging that you are stressed and then taking action to tackle the areas that are stressing you. Tackle your diet if it needs it and find a regular form of exercise that you enjoy enough to maintain on a weekly basis. Strengthen your immune system with supplements such as Echinacea and keep your adrenal glands strong with the right supplements, and a qualified nutritionist can help here with a specific programme for your needs.
Next tackle any hormonal imbalance by checking for signs of oestrogen dominance or other symptoms. Look for bioidentical natural hormones, both progesterone and oestrogen and follow a regime that will help get you back on track.
Supplementing with bioidentical hormones is known to be highly effective for many of the common conditions that women suffer from PMS to low thyroid and through the fertile years to helping with menopause and osteoporosis.
You are never too old, or too young, to start having healthy hormones and whether you have had a hysterectomy or are trying to have a baby there is help for the hormonal imbalance that underlies many common conditions.